LAS VEGAS – When everyone in the room was saying goodbye to Greg Maddux on Monday, at least one person was remembering the hello.
For Bud Black, it came in a high school gymnasium in upstate New York, four men, one basketball.
Twenty years ago in Cooperstown, N.Y., the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs met in the Hall of Fame game. In the nearby ballpark, the teams played baseball. In the gym, pitchers with the day off played hoops.
The marquee game, Indians Greg Swindell and Black vs. Cubs Rick Sutcliffe and Maddux.
Not shirts and skins, as it turned out, but lefts and rights.
“He was just a pup,” Black said of Maddux, moments after Maddux had made his retirement official at the Bellagio. “I'd heard about him, but didn't know much about him.”
In midsummer 1988, Maddux was in mid-breakout. He was an All-Star for the first time that season and was on his way to 18 wins.
From that pickup game, there'd eventually come 770 big-league wins. Maddux had 355 of them. But, the score was different that afternoon in Cooperstown.
“They'll probably tell you a different version of who won,” said Black, now manager of the San Diego Padres. "But I think we won.”
Even then, Black said with a grin, Maddux displayed his grasp of the inner game. Black, the left-hander, beat Maddux going left a couple times.
“Then he overplayed me left,” Black said, “and I was done.”